My 2018 priorities

(Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a report to constituents by state Rep. Mike Hanna.)

As the Pennsylvania General Assembly gears up to tackle many issues during the final stretch of the 2017-18 Legislative Session, I want to provide some insight on various legislative priorities important to the district, as well as the House Democratic Caucus.

Plan for Pennsylvania

Recently, House Democrats unveiled a “Plan for PA,” a legislative agenda that focuses on solutions for working, middle-class Pennsylvanians that creates jobs, makes taxes fairer and ensures everyone is afforded a quality public education.

The plan focuses on the following four overarching themes:

r Putting People First by protecting your health and safety, and the economic opportunity and human dignity that you and every Pennsylvanian deserves.

r Attracting Good Jobs with family supporting wages that will move our economy forward and provide financial security for your family and families all across the state.

r Giving your children access to safe, Quality Schools no matter where you live, schools that offer a first-rate education and a path to future success; and making higher education and training affordable so you can maximize you career potential and help your family get ahead as a result of your hard work.

r Easing the burden on working families and the middle class with a system of Fair Taxes for everyone that eliminates the loopholes and special rules that allow corporations and the wealthy to exploit you by passing their share of support for our schools, communities and resources on to you and your family.

Good jobs with fair wages that puts people and families first are at the core of the House Democrats’ Plan for Pennsylvania and crucial to moving Pennsylvania forward for everyone. The following priorities all tie into our Plan for Pennsylvania. A plan that’s clear, a plan that’s concise and a plan that makes common sense.

No budget, no pay

Each year, all 253 members of the Pennsylvania legislature are constitutionally required to pass and present to the governor a balanced budget.

On Feb. 6, 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf will issue his fourth budget address that we expect will, among other things, outline additional government reform efforts, provide for investments in education, create family-sustaining jobs, provide greater protection for our senior citizens and outline efforts to continue the fight against our current opioid epidemic all across the state. Once delivered, the House and Senate Appropriation Committees will kick off their annual budget hearings.

There are a lot of moving parts to ensure an on-time budget, but I believe all four chambers have a renewed sense of urgency to fulfill their budgetary responsibilities.

Many believe that there will be an on-time budget this year. The past few years have been excruciating so I am optimistic going into this New Year that we can work together in a bipartisan manner to deliver an on-time budget.

I have spent significant time working on budgetary reform efforts. Regardless of whether or not a budget is passed on time this year, we must take steps now to ensure those who sit at the negotiating table in the future are held responsible. That is why I have authored language that would suspend compensation and reimbursements for the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet officers and members of the General Assembly who are elected to leadership positions if a general appropriations bill fails to pass, or the governor vetoes, by June 30.

No budget, no pay — it just makes common sense.

What we need and what the public demands is more transparency and accountability among members of the executive branch and the legislature.

It is my belief that those who ultimately negotiate the state’s most important piece of legislation need to be held responsible for inaction. As mentioned before, I have held myself to this very standard each and every year that the budget has not been enacted on time by voluntarily refusing to accept my paycheck.

As a member of the minority party who does not have the ability to call up a vote, I urge leaders on the other side of the aisle to make budgetary reform measures top priority in 2018.

Natural Gas Severance Tax

Recently, I had the opportunity to read an article in the paper that quoted the House Republican Leader as stating that there is no desire to seek new revenue sources in Pennsylvania.

My immediate reaction to this news was, “what about a natural gas severance tax?”

Last fall we spent significant time debating a natural gas severance tax.

It’s no secret that our state has faced significant revenue problems for years. Before us lies an opportunity to generate real, sustainable revenue and, yet again, the speaker and majority leader refuse to give the people of this Commonwealth what they want, need and deserve.

Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state without a severance tax.

A severance tax would provide Pennsylvanians with a fairer return on natural resources being removed from the state and would require big oil and gas companies to pay their fair share. We have had productive discussions on this topic in recent months, but stating that there is no desire to seek new revenue sources during this budgetary session leaves me to believe that there are leaders on the other side of the aisle who do not have their constituents’ best interests at heart.

With regards to Plan for PA, a natural gas severance tax touches all four categories: Puts people first, provides good paying jobs, provides for education funding to ensure we have quality schools and establishes fairer taxes. Sounds to me like it’s a win-win.

Redistricting

Just last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision that many have long been awaiting. According to the decision, the state’s GOP-drawn congressional districts “clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation, but thanks to Pennsylvania’s highest court ruling, all 18 districts must be redrawn in just a few short weeks.

On a local level, efforts made by the Clinton County chapter of Fair Districts PA have proven successful.

Clinton County is the first Pennsylvania county to have 100 percent passage of resolutions supporting legislation that would end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania by way of an Independent Citizens’ Commission.

As many of the readers might know, I am a long-time supporter of good-government reforms, particularly redistricting reform.

Further, I am a co-sponsor of House Bill 722, which if passed, would promote fair, transparent and impartial redistricting in Pennsylvania.

This proposal would empower an Independent Redistricting Commission to handle redistricting after each census to ensure politicians are not choosing their voters but voters are choosing their politicians.

I am encouraged by the results this week and look forward to increased debate on this topic.

As the House Democratic Leader plainly puts it, “It’s a victory for people over entrenched special interests.”

(Coming Thursday: Deer management, education funding, jobs that pay and retirement security.)

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